Advertising
Advertising

Published on February 4, 2020

The 16 Habits Of Mind That Make You Smarter

The 16 Habits Of Mind That Make You Smarter

In most learning situations, we see three elements at work:

We’re given objectives, we get instructed on how to achieve those objectives, and the learning stems from the results that we obtain.

Growing up, this was the learning structure that we had at the core, but there were many others that grew around that time. The only problem was they weren’t common practice and still aren’t.

I’ve covered others before through self-taught learning and deliberate practice. But one other I haven’t covered is habits of mind. These habits are powerful like most of non-traditional learning methods.

For this one, in particular, it can lead to great success and could change your life forever.

What Are “Habits of Mind”?

The habits themselves are nothing new or revolutionary. Developed by Art Costa and Bena Kallick, the two authors of Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind: 16 Essential Characteristics for Successbelieve these habits are less on behavior but more on intent.

The pair writes:

A “Habit of Mind” means having a disposition toward behaving intelligently when confronted with problems, the answers to which are not immediately known. When humans experience dichotomies, are confused by dilemmas, or come face to face with uncertainties–our most effective actions require drawing forth certain patterns of intellectual behavior. When we draw upon these intellectual resources, the results that are produced through are more powerful, of higher quality and greater significance than if we fail to employ those patterns of intellectual behaviors.

Another way to look at this is that the habits of mind push us to look at problems from different angles. Not only that, but it can be challenging to achieve this as successfully using these habits of mind requires skill, and experience.

So don’t think you’ll achieve mastery of these over a short period of time.

Advertising

The 16 Habits of Mind

But don’t get your hopes down because it’ll be challenging. As I said above, these habits are nothing complicated or new. Chances are you’ve got some of these habits.

The challenge is using those habits in a learning situation to develop yourself further. With that said, here is a rundown of the habits.

  1. Persisting
  2. Managing Impulsivity
  3. Listening with Understanding and Empathy
  4. Thinking Flexibly
  5. Thinking about Thinking
  6. Striving for Accuracy
  7. Questioning and Posing Problems
  8. Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations
  9. Thinking and Communicating with Clarity & Precision
  10. Gathering Data Through All Senses
  11. Creating, Imagining, Innovating
  12. Responding with Wonderment and Awe
  13. Taking Responsible Risks
  14. Finding Humor
  15. Thinking Interdependently
  16. Remaining Open to Continuous Learning

While knowing the habits is one thing, it’s another to apply them in a learning environment. Below are some examples of each of the habits of mind can be used.

1. Persisting

Persistence is all about not giving up and achieving whatever your goal is. Over the years, there have been several examples of this. When it comes to developing this skill, the best thing to do in this scenario is to pull from these examples.

How this helps with learning is that it encourages us to continue learning and working towards our goals.

2. Managing Impulsivity

Remember that habits of mind are designed to find problems that people wouldn’t find on the first go. This is key because whenever we see problems, we are quick to act on impulse. We don’t bother to think about other options.

This habit of mind helps us to hesitate, but only to consider other possible scenarios. In other words, you want to be practicing patience when coming up with solutions and deciding how to act.

How this helps in a learning situation is it pushes us to weigh our options when presented with a problem.

3. Listening with Understanding and Empathy

Many of us listen in order to reply rather than listen to understand and relate to the person. In conversations, we can find ourselves comparing, judging, placating or offering advice rather than listening and understanding a message.

To improve those skills, catch yourself whenever you do those sorts of things. This can also help in learning because when we are listening to understand, we have a deeper grasp of concepts, and the problems.

Advertising

4. Thinking Flexibly

We all have opinions and perspectives of reality and that bias seeps into everything that we see and what we read and learn. For this specific habit of mind, developing this requires us to look at things from a different angle.

That’s not to say to look at everything with skepticism, but rather to use a different perspective than our own or the original speakers. Place yourself in different shoes and walk around in them as they say.

How this applies to learning environments is that when we use different angles, there’s a deeper understanding. Knowing one side of a problem is good, but knowing where both parties are coming from is even better.

5. Metacognition

Otherwise known as thinking about thinking, developing this habit comes down to that. It’s important that you’re aware of your thinking process.

How you do that comes down to charting a map. A good example is drawing up a diagram of relationships. It’s a map that details the relationship between a want and a need as well as a gesture and a need to gesture.

6. Striving for Accuracy

This habit of mind is ensuring that what you are doing is accurate. How would you know if you’re doing it right without someone telling you it’s correct?

While you don’t want to be reliant on people’s opinions, it is still helpful to get others to check what you’re doing is proper and that you are making progress.

This is why it helps to have at least two or three people review your work before it moves on. Provided that reviewing is possible.

7. Questioning and Posing Problems

Learning stems from presenting problems and asking questions. For some generations, this is second nature as many aren’t afraid to go to google and figure things out. Developing this habit stems from this as well.

That or if you are in the middle of something, you could write questions down on post-it notes.

Advertising

8. Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations

Another part of the habits of mind is that these develop through experiences. These experiences can be recent or they can stem from the past. Recalling previous knowledge and applying it to new situations can have it’s merits.

By no means is it always the best solution on the table, but knowing what was done in the past can add a deeper understanding. Either way pulling from an area you’re already comfortable in can improve learning.

9. Thinking and Communicating with Clarity & Precision

This one goes hand in hand with listening with understanding and empathy. The idea behind this habit of mind is to speak directly to people and avoid being vague, abstract or using imprecisions.

Examples of these words are always, all, everybody, celebrities, technology.

It’s not that using these words is bad or improper. Being able to speak directly and to think with a narrow focus helps in approaching a problem. Just because one piece of technology is faulty, doesn’t make all technology faulty. When addressing a problem and communicating, we need to focus on the specific point first.

10. Gathering Data Through All Senses

What this means is looking at various sources when it comes to learning. Of course, the quality of the source is important but pulling from sources like sensory data, blogs, and other third-party sources can have its merits.

11. Creating, Imagining, Innovating

Learning can be pulled from all kinds of different methods. It’s also good for you to be keeping the creative side of ourselves active as well seeing as it can provide opportunities for us to think of new solutions.

Similar to being flexible with our thinking, tapping into other regions that we may not excel in can help.

12. Responding with Wonderment and Awe

If you see learning as a chore, chances are you won’t be retaining any information. It’s important that we have a passion for the subject and that we’re eager to learn and indulge in the topic.

Responding with awe and wonderment is one of the side effects when we are interested in a topic.

Advertising

13. Taking Responsible Risks

For this habit of mind, this prioritizes how we see failure and when to take risks. It’s important to see failure as an improvement to grow rather than something to get punished for.

14. Finding Humor

Humor can bring things back to reality as we find all kinds of things funny. While what you are learning could be serious, tying it into stories that cause positive emotions will help in making it stick.

15. Thinking Interdependently

Today this is easier to achieve thanks in part to social media. Because we are all connected, it’s easy for us to connect our thoughts with other people. Every single day, more content is published and shared and consuming that can help us in this area.

16. Remaining Open to Continuous Learning

The last of the habits of mind is learning continuously. As the habit suggests, learning is constant and old ideas need to be revised. After all, we know how problematic it can be when methods or views are dated.

The world is on the move to growing and improving day after day — online and offline. It’s up to us to stay up to speed by developing ourselves too: How to Create a Habit of Continuous Learning for a Better You

Final Thoughts

The habits of mind focus heavily on our own experiences and skills in the world. The more we get out to experience life, the more that we will learn and hone these 16 skills.

By taking these skills to heart and applying them in learning, we can begin to change our lives as the knowledge we gain can be applied in many facets of our lives. The habits of mind are indeed the keys to our success and growth.

More on Boosting Brain Power

Featured photo credit: Thought Catalog via unsplash.com

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

The Lifehack Show: The Importance of Leadership (No Matter Who You Are) with Michael Bianco-Splann What Is Speed Reading and How to Successfully Learn It 50 Habits of Highly Successful People You Should Learn Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Conquer It) 8 Brain Exercises for Mental Strength and a Smarter Brain

Trending in Smartcut

1 What Is a Bullet Journal and What Are the Benefits? 2 How to Run an Effective One on One Meeting with Team Members 3 8 Brain Exercises for Mental Strength and a Smarter Brain 4 How to Use the 5 Whys to Get to the Root Cause of Any Problem 5 What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on February 11, 2020

8 Brain Exercises for Mental Strength and a Smarter Brain

8 Brain Exercises for Mental Strength and a Smarter Brain

Everyone says that we need to strive for a healthy body. These people are the people who say we should be going to the gym, exercise daily, and eat the right kind of food.

And while that advice is helpful, I feel a lot of people forget about another important part of ourselves: our brain.

Think about it.

When was the last time that you read a book?

Most are likely guilty of not having read a book in years. From 2004 to 2018, the number of people in America leisurely reading has dropped by 30%.[1]

We place so much priority on our bodies, and yet most of us don’t prioritize brain exercises or brain care. Why is that?

Fortunately, with brain exercises, we can reverse a lot of the damage that’s been done. Thanks to massive developments in neuroscience, we understand when our brain is at peak performance and what we can do to maintain it or bring it back to those levels.

Do Brain Exercises Really Work?

The short answer is yes.

First, there is all of Sherry Willis’ work. From her efforts, participants were able to do varying degrees of difficult tasks. Not only that but they were able to do so in an efficient manner than before.

There was also an extensive study that looked at the long-term effects of brain exercises on older individuals. The study provided brain exercises to 2,832 individuals aged 65 and up.[2]

Advertising

Over a 10 year period, participants were given training in processing speed, memory, and reasoning. Another smaller controlled group received no such training.

After that 10 year period, the researchers came back after 5 years to see results. While the training did help the older individuals during the 10 years of brain exercises, those benefits were gone after 5 years.

After 10 years of having the brain training, there were no signs of brain improvements.

What this study uncovers is that not only does the training work, but also it’s important to practice this regularly. Similar to our health, if we don’t train our bodies, it’ll deteriorate similar to our brain if we don’t exercise it.

Which Brain Exercises Are the Best?

According to research done in 1999, our brain reaches peak performance between age 16 and 25.[3] After that, our cognitive functioning – our ability to mentally process and carry out tasks – declines naturally. This doesn’t mean that we will be mentally incapable of working after a certain period of time though. Rather, our ability to change, process certain tasks, and introduce new processes will be tougher.

Understanding this is important since brain exercises are designed to keep the brain functional all around.[4] Examples are being able to do daily tasks, retaining memories, and keeping focus. This might not be a big issue right now but, it becomes more pressing when you get older and there are threats of dementia, amnesia, and Alzheimers — mental issues that could be stopped through regular exercise of our brains.

The question is, what sort of exercises are best for us?

Simple: personalized brain exercises.

Many people have tried all kinds of tactics to exercise their brains. And while there is research to support a variety of these claims, there’s more scientific support behind this particular form of training.

The strategy has been proven by Dr. Sherry Willis, a professor at the University of Texas. Through her research, she proved participants became more efficient at performing typical tasks at varying levels of complexity.[5]

Advertising

Participants were able to write shopping lists to being able to operate technical equipment with ease.

The big question now is where can you find these sorts of programs?

Since this research emerged, many businesses have been formed to help in this area. Training can be as simple as playing Sudoku to having full-fledged programs given out by various apps.[6]

8 Brain Exercises to Strengthen Your Brain

While having a personalized brain training course is great, not everyone is mentally prepared for them. Instead, people may find it better to strengthen their brains in other ways.

While these methods lack built-in long-term challenges or personalization, those can be mitigated. That is, if you want to start taking care of your brain as much as you want to look after the rest of your body.

1. Exercise

Studies from 2006 show that exercise has tremendous benefits on our brain. Specifically, exercising can protect our brain from shrinkage as it ages.[7]

While exercise may not be the most engaging or challenging brain exercise, this is one way to get the best of both worlds. Not only that, but you can add a layer of challenge by doing different exercises.

This helps because it teaches our brain to fire off new signals to our brain. This increases our brains plasticity – the ability to change and think differently. Thus doing new exercises will strengthen our brains.

2. Drawing Maps

A lot of us remember the streets we grew up like the back of our hands. We can navigate it with ease with no challenge.

But have you ever drawn it out before?

Advertising

One good challenge is to draw out the streets and what your neighbourhood looked like. Try to recall iconic landmarks and place them on the map as well.

Once you’re done with the map, find a real map and compare it with the one you drew. More often than not, you probably missed a few spots here and there. This happens because our brain doesn’t store that specific information for very long. Once we know where we want to go, our brain typically signals us to go a familiar route. We subconsciously comply and think nothing else of it.

Regardless, drawing a map can help us strengthen our brain and is a step above physical exercise since this demands more brainpower. I’d also encourage you to challenge yourself further and draw larger scale maps. Why not draw a map of the United State and write in all the state’s locations and capitals? Why not do the same with Canada?

3. Learning Something New

Barring personalized training, the best form of brain exercise stems from doing something different. Starting something new requires a lot of mental capacity.

Not only are you learning to do something new, but you also need to keep yourself motivated to continue doing it. Because of this, learning something new will keep us on our toes.

What’s also nice is that the activities don’t need to be really challenging. For example, one study had two groups and was asked to do different activities.[8] One group was asked to learn new skills like quilting or digital photography. The other was asked to watch movies or listen to the radio.

The study found that those quilting or doing digital photography had a better memory than those who had more leisure activities. They proved this by giving the individuals memory tests.

4. Socialize

When we get older, we tend to have a smaller circle of friends and thus, talk less and less. What’s saddening is the lack of social activity negatively impacts our mental health.

We’re obviously social creatures, so it should come to no surprise that being socially active is one way to exercise our brain. It also is one way of fighting back dementia and Alzheimer’s.[9]

Even if you are an introvert, seeking social interactions clearly has short-term and long-term benefits. Some ideas to be socially active is by joining clubs, going for daily walks with people, volunteering in your community, or staying in contact with your family or past friends.

Advertising

5. Doing a Jigsaw Puzzle

Big or small, research shows that this exercise recruits multiple cognitive abilities.[10]

6. Playing Card Games

Similarly, card games both online and offline can prove useful for your brain. One study in 2015 found that card games activate various parts of the brain.[11] Games included poker, crazy eights, solitaire, bridge, and gin rummy.

7. Learning a New Language

I mentioned earlier that learning something new is good but, it doesn’t always have to be a physical skill. Learning a new language activates many regions of our brain while also boosting cognition.[12]

8. Taking a New Route to a Familiar Destination

That or simply go down a different road. This doesn’t apply to driving or travelling but to any sort of problem that you deal with in life. By pushing yourself to think of other alternatives, your brain receives a number of benefits from making a simple change as these taxi drivers discovered.

Bottom Line

A lot of the reasons to consider brain exercises in our lives is similar to our health. As you can probably tell, these exercises do not take very long. They can be easily integrated into our daily lives.

Furthermore, brain exercises improve our focus, memory, and ability to complete daily activities. To stop doing brain exercises is to remove all of those benefits that can help us significantly as we get older.

So if you can’t get personalized brain training, consider the strategies I mentioned above. You’d be surprised how easy and how quickly you’ll notice changes in your life from this.

More to Sharpen Your Brain

Featured photo credit: Micael Sáez via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next